There are about 25,000 love hotels in Japan and even in a bad economy, business is booming. They offer rooms by the hour, with underground parks and entrances and screens to shield visitors’ license plates if they so wish. Yes, love hotels can be places for illicit meetings with prostitutes or adulterers, but more often than not, they offer Japanese couples who may be living in close quarters with their families a place they can go for some private we time.
Yuichi Ito, a twenty-something living with his parents, explains why he frequents them: "My family is my Dad and my Mom, and I have two younger brothers. But we only have four rooms, so it is a very crowded house."
With typical Japanese whimsy, love hotels are often themed — couples can dress up as nurses and doctors, play with bondage toys, or stay in rooms that look like classrooms or trains.
Foreign investors are looking to swoop in on the love hotel action, especially since big Japanese corporations find them too seedy to be associated with. British businessman Steve Mansfield already runs six of them — and wants to run more. Rebranding them is in order, though. He refers to them as "leisure hotels."